The fate of the pastor at embattled Flint Hill Baptist Church remained in limbo late Monday after more than 100 church members attended a court-ordered, members-only meeting for several hours.
The meeting was overseen by the state’s former top law enforcement officer after a judge appointed him to conduct the gathering following months of discord and legal battles.
It was the latest turn in a dispute that has been boiling since February. Church locks were changed, “no trespassing” signs were posted, services were held outdoors, and police were called several times.
The meeting, which was to include a vote on suspended church deacons and the airing of grievances over the actions of the Rev. Cedric Maddox, was still going at 10 p.m.
Dissident members upset over the direction of the 90-year-old, historically black church voted earlier this year to fire Maddox, but the pastor and deacons who backed him filed a lawsuit this summer, claiming the firing was illegal.
Master-in Equity Judge Jack Kimball supported that claim and ordered locks changed back and “no trespassing” signs removed as Maddox remained in charge. Kimball also ordered church members vote Monday night on whether three suspended deacons who wanted Maddox fired should be reinstated.
Kimball did not order a vote on whether to fire Maddox, but he did order that parishioners should have a chance to air their grievances about Maddox to the deacons.
Under church rules, only deacons can recommend a vote of the membership on the pastor’s status. They so far have declined to do so, despite dozens of members clamoring for a vote Monday night.
Many of those members voiced displeasure with Maddox, said Mary Hall, a member for more than 40 years, after she left the meeting.
“People who have been at this church for almost all their lives are still upset,” Hall said. “We want (Maddox) gone.”
Maddox has been pastor since 2008. The church did not have revival, Vacation Bible School, anniversary festivities or other activities held in normal years.
“So much of what makes Flint Hill hasn’t been happening because of all this,” Hall said. “We love our church.”
Deitra Mixon, 21, who said she has been a member since she was a young girl, said the church now has almost nothing for young people.
“We are not accounted for or listened to,” Mixon said after the meeting.
The members in attendance did vote Monday on reinstating the three suspended deacons, but the results were not made public. Lifelong church member John Clowney, grandfather of University of South Carolina football star Jadeveon Clowney, said as he left the meeting that he believed the deacons had enough votes to be reinstated.
Several members still want a vote on whether to fire Maddox, and the ongoing fracture seems nowhere near healed, even with Monday’s meeting.
It remains unclear if a vote will be held on Maddox’s fate.
Reggie Lloyd – a former Circuit Court judge, former State Law Enforcement Division chief and former U.S. attorney – was appointed by Judge Kimball to oversee the meeting.
He and the lawyers for both sides were still in the meeting late Monday and unavailable for comment.